“No pain, no gain.” If you’ve ever played sports or started an exercise program, you may have motivated yourself with this chant. However, when you feel sudden, sharp pain, or acute pain, it’s your body’s way of slamming on the breaks.
If you disregard consistent acute pain, you’re not going to be gaining anything, says UAMS physical therapist M.J. Orellano. “Acute pain is a message to the body that alerts a person to a problem in the system.”
But, what about being sore after working out or playing a sport? Orellano says that these activities are expected to cause discomfort, which is different than acute pain. “Mild soreness may be expected for 48 hours and even up to 72 hours after a new activity. However, the discomfort should not be great enough to impair function. If function is impaired, injury or overtraining may be suspect.”
Why should you not ignore pain? “Pain interrupts normal movement patterns; therefore, training or exercising in pain can lead to other injuries,” Orellano says. Fighting acute pain can actually extend the time the injury needs to heal.
If you shouldn’t ignore pain, what is a good motto to live by? We recommend “know pain and gain.” Learn to know the difference between the sudden pain that may accompany an injury and the uncomfortable post-workout soreness.
Acute pain may be associated with redness, fever, swelling, bleeding, nausea or vomiting, Orellano says. “If pain is not severe but not improving, and acute pain symptoms are absent, see your physician with 72 hours. If pain is causing a loss in function see your physician as soon as possible. If you are seeing improvement after the injury and your function is not impaired, you may be able to recovery independently through exercise.”
If you believe you have a mild sprain or injury, remember to use the RICE method of rest, ice, compression and elevation to lessen the pain and swelling. If you need assistance post injury with corrective exercise physical or occupational therapy may help.